Can a Narcissist Change? Here’s what the experts say

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Can daffodils change?

The most prominent quality of someone with a narcissistic personality disorder or narcissistic tendencies is that he is very unanimous, often believing that he is never wrong.

They are stubborn and unwavering in their views of the world, themselves and the people around them. So how do you get someone who controls and thinks he’s always right to change his tendencies or wants to change them at all? Is it even possible?

“Not all daffodils can change,” says Dr. Elinor Greenberg, a licensed psychologist and author of the book Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: The Search for Love, Admiration, and Security. “They have to be very motivated and ready for self-reflection. But if they are, it’s possible.” Here are the conditions they must meet and the keys to helping the narcissist you love to change his behavior and become more empathetic and caring.

The extent of their narcissism

There are different degrees of narcissism that a person can possess or project, and where it descends to that spectrum it plays a role in the likelihood that it can change.

“People can adopt narcissistic tendencies and behaviors when they feel physically or emotionally threatened or if they are growing addicted or have another mental health problem. In those cases, when the threat is removed or resolved, empathy and self-awareness can return,” says Mike Gallagher , a licensed professional clinical advisor and clinical director at the Shoreline Recovery Center in Encinitas, California.

“However, with narcissistic personality disorder, we are dealing with a personality, not a situation or circumstance. Changing personality, which is a construction of characteristics and qualities that develop through experience, is extremely difficult.”

Greenberg notes that some forms of therapy, such as species that focus on childhood relationships (object relationship therapy), are successful in people with narcissistic personality disorder. Some strategies can help them change their behavior. But for those diagnosed with a personality disorder, the path to change will be longer.

(Here are a few quotes from daffodils that can help you deal with daffodils in your life.)

Change must be their idea

“One of the most common requests I get is a spouse who wants to take their narcissistic partner out for therapy under another pretense. It doesn’t actually work out,” Greenberg shares. To begin to assess his tendencies and the way he acts toward those around him, the narcissist must be the one who decides he wants to make a change.

But that doesn’t mean friends and family can’t offer a little help to get them to that point. “The best strategy is not to directly change a person’s narcissism, but instead the person’s desire to change,” says Dr. W. Keith Campbell, professor of psychology at the University of Georgia and author of the book A new science of narcissism. “In other words, convince the narcissist that he wants to change and then you can help if needed, but they have to make the change themselves.”

For example, this strategy may work if the narcissist has a natural attitude toward psychology. “Some daffodils will really engage in their own therapy,” Greenberg notes, adding that if they become an ally on their own path to self-awareness, then they can feel a certain degree of power and control in a process that encourages their desire to change.

(Here’s how reshaping your thoughts can change your life.)

a person standing in front of a mirror and posing for the camera

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Motivation itself is the most important step towards change – if the narcissist has no reason to want to change, then change is unlikely to happen.

One of the common reasons for the changes Greenberg sees is that Narcissus feels like a failure or feels he will soon be exposed as one of them. “I’ve seen people who have experienced such a serious failure that as a result they have been in a depression that hates itself,” she says. “They know they’re daffodils, but they’ve reached the lowest level and they don’t know how to get out.”

While reaching the bottom can certainly be dark, both for the person experiencing it and for those around them, it can be a motivation for them to count on the daffodil in the mirror.

But hitting the bottom is not the only way to motivate change. “Many people with narcissistic personality disorder will make changes in their behavior if they notice benefits,” Gallagher says. “Activating change in these cases often revolves around creating common structures that reward narcissists for change.” And those structures and conditions must always focus on the behavior of the daffodil and that alone.

“When I’m on narcissist therapy, the only thing they can talk about is what they want for themselves, what they want to change,” Greenberg explains. “I can’t tell tangential stories, blame other people for things, or complain about my partner. It has to be because of them.”

While this can be painful at first, it forces the narcissist to come to terms with their behavior, while at the same time giving them a challenge to come up with, which will help them work on change.

(Here are the signs of narcissistic abuse.)

Understanding what needs to change

In 2018, Campbell is the co-author of a study published in Personality disorders which provided a clue that changes the game of what might motivate narcissistic people to change. “For years, I thought (and so did the area) that daffodils, especially grandiose daffodils, didn’t want to change because they loved what they were,” he explains.

“In a way we still notice this. Grandiose daffodils have high self-esteem, are happy and feel closer to their ideal self than the rest of us. However, when it comes to their more antagonistic and callous personality traits, such as their manipulative nature or lack of empathy , daffodils usually see these qualities as negative and want to change them. “

This is a critical discovery, especially for people looking for a narcissist they know can make a difference, as it states that they already know they possess traits worth changing. The key, then, lies not in convincing them to change, but in patience, making it clear when they are opposing or callous, and helping to reach a point where they will decide to follow the changes themselves.

“In this case,” Campbell adds, “we want to encourage narcissistic individuals to map out the life they want to have and then consider how their narcissistic personality interferes with it.”


“Changing the personality of another is a challenge,” says Campbell. “The challenge is that narcissism is a compromise, so it’s not as simple as resolving traits. People are complex.” But new research and the continuous experience of therapists reveal that change is possible if the narcissist has the motivation and will to change.

The post Can Narcissus Change? Here’s what experts say first appeared in The Healthy.

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